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Prohibition -

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Never underestimate the need
for young dopes

to defy the conventional laws.

If you want something,
you want them to brush their teeth,

make it illegal.

Make toothpaste illegal

and they'll be standing on the roof
brushing away.

It's natural to human beings.
I think it's a healthy thing.


America's experiment in Prohibition

stubbornly endured for 13 years.

It had been launched by an unlikely
coalition of reformers and bigots,

capitalists and working men.

It would take another
curious combination of forces

finally to bring it to an end.

Alarm over a revolution in morals

that had come to be associated
with the speakeasy...

public horror
at the violent lawlessness

Prohibition had unleashed
on America's cities...

an economic crisis so severe
and so universally felt

that questions about whether a man
or woman could get a legal drink

seemed beside the point...

and an unlikely revolutionary
who would lead a woman's crusade,

not in favour of Prohibition,
but against it.

No right-thinking man or woman
wants the return of the saloon

but far worse than the return
of the saloon it would be

to enthrone hypocrisy permanently

as our dominant force
in this country.

"Women come into this New Barroom...

"They go right up to the bar.

"They put a foot
on the brass railing.

"They order, they are served,

"they bend the elbow, they hoist,

"they toss down
the feminine oesophagus

"the brew that was really meant
for men

"stout and wicked men.

"The last barrier is down,

"the citadel has been stormed
and taken.

"There is no longer any escape,
no hiding place...

"where the hounded male may
seek his fellow and strut his stuff,

"safe from the atmosphere
and presence of femininity.

"A man might as well do
his drinking at home,

"with his wife and daughters,

"and there was never fun in that."

Don Marquis.

Men and women almost never drank
together before Prohibition.

Maybe at occasional dinner parties
of the rich

because the saloon
was a male-only institution.

But the speakeasy,

where there was no law enforced
of any kind, became different.

And if you have a little jazz band

and they're gonna play
the Charleston

you're gonna have
women and men together.

There's a real liberation for women,
a liberation of behaviour,

that takes place then.

An independence that said, you know,
"He can drink, I can drink, too."

And that wouldn't have happened
before Prohibition.

I went to Radcliffe and it was...
Harvard was right beside.

And the boys at Harvard
were always making bathtub gin,

you know,
and having people for drinks.

I was somewhat in awe of some
of the college men that I knew.

They were so grown up.
They were juniors and seniors.

I sort of went along with it.
I didn't drink much.

But I did drink some.

And I thought it was quite good
and made you feel nice and cheerful.

There's a liberation here
that the young, urban, modern woman

could jump into and really go crazy.

Whether it was wild dancing
or wild sex

or really the sense of
"No one's going to tell me

"what I can or can't do."

Women were suddenly behaving
in very different ways in the 1920s.


Historians talk about a revolution
in morals in the 1920s.

And some of what's said
is exaggerated

but the most careful studies find

that if women
were not being more promiscuous,

men and women
were enjoying sex more.

And there is a view
that what happens in the 1920s

is that men discover the clitoris.

And men and women
have a lot better time in bed

than they had in Victorian days.

MAN SINGS: # You'll do it someday,
so why not now?

# Oh, won't you let me try
to show you how?

# Think what you're missing.

# Oh, it's a shame.

# You'll miss the kissing
and the rest of the game.

# In open spaces
where men are men,

# A chicken never waits
till she's a hen.

# Don't keep me waiting

# For I do vow

# You'll do it someday,
so why not now? #

I did realise
that there was a fast set

and that you had to be prepared

for how you were gonna
answer questions.

It was the beginning of the time

when boys and girls slept together.

There was quite a lot of that
going on

which astounded me
from my innocent background.

But, but anyway
it was happening a lot really.

My girlfriends told me
and, you know, would ask

did I have a really good boyfriend
or not?

But I always denied it.

The older generation of women

who had fought so hard
to win the vote

and to bring about Prohibition,

were more and more appalled at the
wanton behaviour of their daughters.

There would have been
a sexual revolution in the 1920s

without the role of alcohol

but because the two
were happening together,

folks active in the temperance
and suffrage movements

came to zero in on liquor

as an engine
of this new sexual revolution.

# Don't keep me waiting

# For I do vow

# You'll do it someday,
so why not now? #

We tend to think ahistorically

so we imagine
that our generation invented sex

or that it invented drinking
or even that it invented drug use.

If you look at the movies
of the 1920s,

for instance, 'Flaming Youth',

the Colleen Moore movie which was
arguably the first flapper movie,

it portrays a tremendous amount
of sex and drinking.

There's even a very scandalous scene
that's seen behind a silhouette

in which all of the teenagers
are jumping into a pool unclothed.

If you're in Omaha or in Cleveland
or wherever it might be

and you see the young,
glamorous Joan Crawford

drunk and dancing on a tabletop
in 'Our Dancing Daughters',

well gee, that's the life of
the exciting people in the big city.

So it spreads.

And you find that the country,

as the country becomes more
homogenised through mass media,

one of the things that's getting
homogenised is its drinking habits.

CHORUS SINGS: # Da-da-da-da-da

WOMAN SINGS: # Let's misbehave #

In Hollywood
and on the Broadway stage,

in magazines and newspapers

and countless songs
turned out by Tin Pan Alley...

# Let's misbehave #

illegal alcohol,
with its hint of illicit sex,

had come to be seen as a sign
of glamour and sophistication,

something to be sought after,
not shunned.

It's part of the conspicuous
consumption of the 1920s

where the amount you spent
and what you've got

and the brand and the label
and everything

became that much more important
to people.

It's a status symbol.

It's kind of strange
to think of something so illegal

being such a status symbol.

You were what you drank.

# Let's misbehave. #

Right now, life-threatening diseases
and disasters are taking a terrible toll, affecting people of all ages
in communities the world over...

..and we are there, helping victims of war,
treating people with cholera...

..fighting acute malnutrition and providing crucial vaccinations
against disease. But without the money
to provide medical aid, our ability to save lives
slows to a halt.

Donating $20 a month
to Medecins Sans Frontieres will help keep things going, and ensure our doctors and nurses
can carry on assisting sick and injured people in desperate need of our care.

It can help fund
vital vaccinations...

..provide life-saving
surgical equipment and portable generators so doctors aren't left operating
in the dark.

We deliver medical assistance
to people who need it, whoever and wherever they are.

Just $20 a month
can help keep us going.

Please call the number
on your screen now or visit:

Thank you.

I believe that God Almighty,
when he made grapes

intended that grapes
should be enjoyed

by all of the people.

And I don't think
that he intended the use of grapes

to be made into jelly.

Prohibition will be a success

when Congress by an act of,
or by a law,

will be able to stop fermentation

or to repeal the law of gravitation.

Despite the efforts
of Republican Congressman

Fiorello LaGuardia and others

to point out the folly of the law,

the chances of repealing Prohibition
seemed more remote than ever.

There had always been organised
opposition by wet politicians,

brewers, distillers,
restaurant owners

and the unions
that represented workers

made jobless by the 18th Amendment

but they had made almost no progress.

Over the years, a number of wealthy
and influential men

had lent their names and given
their money to an organisation

called the Association
Against the Prohibition Amendment.

Some felt Prohibition
was simply foolish,

others objected to the contempt
for the law it fostered.

All hoped that if alcohol
could be legalised and taxed again,

their own income taxes would fall.

Their organisation was well-financed

but too elitist,

ill-suited to working with Americans
less fortunate than its leaders.

In 1928, they had tried to influence
56 House and Senate races,

but only 19
of their wet candidates won

and 11 of them were incumbents.

That year, one wet politician said
"We were licked."

Something else someone else
was needed.


It has been 11 years since
the passage of the 18th Amendment

as interpreted by the Volstead Act.

That the time has come
when we should organise

and become articulate

and to work for some sane solution
of this problem.

Prohibition, it has led to more
violation of and contempt for law,

to more hypocrisy among both private
citizens and public officials

than anything else
in our national history.

Of all the splendid homes

wealthy New Yorkers had built for
themselves near Long Island's tip,

none was more splendid
than Bayberry Land.

It had been constructed
on a 289 acre estate

to the exacting specifications
of its mistress,

Mrs Pauline Sabin.

It was a beautiful house,
just extraordinary, on the water.

And a very large house
and built for entertaining.

I think having this household
freed her to do what she wanted.

She didn't really have to run
the house. That was done for her.

She was the wife of Charles Sabin,

chairman of the board
of the Guaranty Trust Company,

and an heiress in her own right.

Her father was president of
the Equitable Life Assurance Company,

an uncle founded Morton Salt.

She was also the first woman

ever to serve on the Republican
National Committee,

the founder and first president of
the Women's National Republican Club,

and had been a major fund-raiser
for the presidential campaigns

of Warren Harding,
Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

Pauline Sabin had initially
supported Prohibition

because she thought
it would be good for her two sons,

protect them from alcohol
and its temptations.

But as time went on
she began to think again.

"The Prohibition law" she said

"was written for weaklings
and derelicts

"and has divided the nation,
like Gaul, into three parts

"wets, drys and hypocrites."

She was repelled by politicians
who voted dry

and then turned up at her dinner
table expecting a drink.

And she had a special aversion to the
Woman's Christian Temperance Union

and the way its president,
Ella Boole,

claimed to speak
for all American women.

Women are relieved
of the fear of a drunken husband.

Children no longer hide with terror

as they see their father
reeling home.

The whole United States is happier

because the liquor traffic
is an outlaw.

We are going to keep it up...

She reacted to this
now fairly worn image

that the WCTU
was American womanhood.

It was getting a little frayed
around the edges, that one.

She put her fist through it
and said "No, it doesn't".

Here's this very wealthy,
blue-blood New York socialite.

But here's someone who genuinely
believed that Prohibition had failed

and that it was her responsibility

and the responsibility
of other American women

to do something about it.

She had remained loyal
to the Republican Party

until after the 1928 election,

hoping that the new president
would make good on a campaign promise

to "look into Prohibition laws"
once he was in office.

Hoover, like Harding
and Coolidge before him,

had little personal interest
in Prohibition.

But he did owe a heavy debt
to the drys.

So the president did
what politicians often do -

he dodged the issue.

He appointed ex-attorney general
George W Wickersham

to head a blue-ribbon commission
to study the entire problem

of American criminal justice.

Sabin resigned in disgust from
the Republican National Committee

and helped found a new group
that soon became

the Women's Organization
for National Prohibition Reform.

Its sole goal was Repeal.

She knew how politics worked

because she had worked so much
in the Republican Party.

She was well connected.

She also had a real presence.
She knew how to deal with the press.

She knew how to make
a Repeal movement

look very respectable
and very serious.

And people really paid attention.

Sabin may have been
a wealthy New Yorker

but she was wise enough to know
that if her movement were to succeed

she would have to make welcome
women of every class

from all over the country.

She was going to recruit women
from all walks of life -

factory workers, housewives,
professionals -

and bring them all together

basically to say
that women do not support this

and the temperance movement
has to stop saying that they do.

They have to acknowledge that women

could be of different minds
about Prohibition.

And what she does is
she makes it okay for women to say

"Yeah, I don't like Prohibition

For more than a century,
women had been essential

to the struggle
to impose Prohibition.

Now, they were becoming central
to the struggle to end it

and they were using
the same old arguments in a new way.

The gravest threat to the protection
of the American family, they now said

was not alcohol, but Prohibition.

Sabin and her followers
out-argued, out-campaigned,

out-promised the dry opposition.

They held rallies,
produced radio spots,

organised automobile caravans

and flights by female aviators.

She got them excited and fired up.
They went everywhere.

They were taken out of their living
rooms away from their canasta packs

and just had a very exciting time

for something that they really
believed in very strongly.

The ranks of Sabin's organisation
grew steadily.

Soon a million and a half women
had signed on.

We are here 1000 strong.

We have come to the Capitol

to inform our members
in the House of Representatives

and the United States Senate

that we will not support candidates

who will not help us
rid this country of a law

which has made of us
a nation of hypocrites

and undermined our moral fibre.

"By heavens," said
Republican senator James Wadsworth,

who had lost his seat in 1926

under attack from dry forces,

"there's a chance of getting Repeal

"if the women
are going to join with us."

It's such a natural instinct to want to look after
the ones you love. Which is why Brian and I
are putting a few dollars a week into an Apia Funeral Plan. There's guaranteed acceptance
for under-75s and access to as much as $30,000
when it's most needed. Sign up today
and Apia will thank you with a $50 Caltex Fuel Card. That's why everyone's
talking about Apia.

He really seemed to believe
that he could be a family man

and supply this booze
and kill people when he had to

and still somehow
come out of it all.

Maybe it was naive

but the guy really seemed to think
that he could pull it off.

On the morning of February 14, 1929 -

Valentine's Day

Al Capone was vacationing
at the new villa

he had bought on Palm Island
off Miami Beach, Florida.

Back in Chicago,
the truce Capone had tried to impose

on the city's bootlegging gangs

had collapsed again.

His chief rival
was George "Bugs" Moran,

the triggerman who had once
almost killed Capone's mentor,

Johnny Torrio,

and had made a failed attempt
on Capone's life as well.

Moran loathed Capone
and loved saying so to newspapermen.

Capone was a "beast"
and a "behemoth" he said,

"lower than a snake's belly"

because he dealt "in flesh"
prostitution - as well as beer.

In Chicago that morning, according
to one of many contradictory stories,

Moran received a phone call.

It was from a nameless hijacker

who said he had a big stolen shipment
of whisky for sale.

Moran told his caller
to drive it to a garage

at 2122 North Clark Street.

He'd meet him there at 10.30.

At the appointed time

seven of Moran's men
were waiting inside the garage

for the hijacker to arrive.

Moran himself was late -
he had stopped for a haircut.

four men drove up in a Cadillac

and hurried into the garage.

Two wore police uniforms.

They all carried shotguns
or submachine guns.

They lined Moran's men
up against the wall.

Then they opened fire.

They're nice and bloody.

Lot of photography.

No investigation required.

And who do you lay it on?
Well, our favourite guy, Capone.

Capone did this despite of the fact
that he was in Florida.

It was extremely cold-blooded.

Nobody knows to this day who did it.

Nobody was ever arrested, nobody
was ever charged with the crime.

It was widely believed
to have been the work of Al Capone,

who was said to be
in pursuit of Bugs Moran.

Bugs Moran was not
one of the seven men killed.

No one could ever prove
Capone was involved.

The killers got away clean.

Bugs Moran managed to hold on
to his territory

and what was left of his gang

but continued to feud bitterly
with Capone.

The 'Chicago American' reported that

"Chicago gangsters
graduated yesterday

"from murder to massacre."

Something had to be done.

The Valentine's Day Massacre
becomes a rallying point

at which people say
"Enough is enough.

"Something's gotta be done
about this."

There have been other shootings

where half a dozen people
had been killed before

but this one is different.

It seemed ridiculous to people
that after all these years

nobody had done anything about it,

that these gangsters can continue
to operate with impunity.

That Al Capone sitting in his
mansion in Florida on the beach

with a cigar in his mouth and
a fishing rod poked into the water,

can order a hit and have seven men
taken out in Chicago

and nobody would do anything about
it, that he wasn't even arrested.

Gang violence was on the rise
in nearly every American city.


Spraying this crowded street with
lead, at Dyckman St and Broadway,

two thugs who killed two policemen
in cold blood

met death
in this bullet-riddled cab.

The cab itself was hit 42 times
in the running gunfight.

Look at those bullet holes.

The crowd which a few minutes before
fled from the bandits' fire

pressed the police, in an attempt
to see the dead bandit taken away.

He goes to join his two companions,
who died on the way to the hospital.

Slaughter was bad for business.

Even the mobsters began to worry
that things were getting out of hand.

Two of the shrewdest
now lived in New York City -

Capone's old employer,
Johnny Torrio,

and Meyer Lansky,
who had already joined forces

to organise the bootlegging
and rum-running businesses

from Boston to the Great Lakes.

For three days in May of 1929

an unprecedented conclave
of mob bosses

from the eastern half of the country

strolled together along the beach
at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Johnny Torrio and Meyer Lansky
were there.

So were Charles "King" Solomon
from Boston,

"Boo-Boo" Hoff from Philadelphia,
Kansas City's Johnny Lazia,

Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello,

Dutch Schultz and Albert Anastasia
from New York.

Together, they agreed to build
a national crime syndicate.

They had finally a sit down and said
"We can't kill each other."

And they divided up territories,

using the Federal Reserve Bank's

to figure out where the zones were.

Prohibition had been intended in part
to reduce crime.

Instead, it had provided
small-time criminals

with a world of opportunities

to increase exponentially
their profits and their power.

They learned during Prohibition

how to do the things they would
need to do in the years ahead

in every form of organised crime
that we've seen since.

How to control money,
how to control troops,

how to divide territory
with each other,

how to cooperate, how to end feuds.

was the finishing school,

the college and the graduate school

for the criminal syndicates
of America.

Al Capone had attended
the Atlantic City summit too.

It had been called in part because
of the St Valentine's Day massacre,

which had brought
so much unwanted attention.

Afterwards he told a reporter

"At Atlantic City
we all agreed to bury the past

"and forget warfare in the future

"for the general good
of all concerned."

In Chicago, the general good usually
meant what was good for Capone.

His business was booming.

Illegal beer
was as plentiful as ever.

No one, it seemed, could touch him.


"Somebody had blundered

"and the most expensive orgy
in history was over...

"It was borrowed time anyway

"the whole upper tenth of the nation

"living with the insouciance
of grand dukes

"and the casualness
of chorus girls...

"Even when you were broke
you didn't worry about money

"because it was in such profusion
around you..

"Now once more the belt is tight

"and we summon
the proper expression of horror

"as we look back
on our wasted youth."

F Scott Fitzgerald.


In the autumn of 1929

after nearly a decade
of unprecedented economic growth,

of rampant speculation
and inflated real estate values,

of easy credit
and little regulation,

the stock market crashed.

The Great Depression that followed

was the worst crisis
America had faced

since the Civil War.

Before it was over,
one out of every four wage-earners —

more than 15 million men and women —

would be without work.

Prices of wheat and corn and cotton
fell so low

the crops were left to rot
in the fields.

In Boston, children
with cardboard soles on their shoes

walked to school
past silent shoe factories

with padlocks on the doors.

In New York

17 homeless men
built themselves a shanty town

in the middle of Central Park.

Like hundreds of thousands
of desperate people

all across the country

they named their temporary village

after the president
whom they had come to blame

for everything
that had happened to them.

And on the South Side of Chicago

a soup kitchen fed thousands
of hungry, desperate people,

courtesy of Al Capone.

My dad worked for the city
of Chicago in a civil service job.

And the city's budget
was in trouble.

And my dad,
even though he worked every day,

he didn't get a pay cheque
for eight months.

I can remember one night
all we had for dinner

was a quart of milk

with butter and lima beans
made into a soup

and that's all we could afford.

It just seemed very hard

for people to focus
on the enforcement of Prohibition

when people
are being thrown out of work

and their homes
are being repossessed.

The economy has collapsed.

To the wets

but to the man and woman
in the middle,

it really didn't make any sense
any longer.

There was a very strong impulse

to get rid of Prohibition
because of the Depression.

First, the government needed
tax revenue desperately.

And secondly, it was a jobs program.

If you reopen the breweries
and for every brewery

how many people are making barrels
and bottles and cans

and driving trucks
and harvesting the grain for it?

It's hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The two central issues
in the 1930 mid-term elections,

the 'New York Telegraph' argued,
were "hunger and thirst".

"Hunger for food
and jobs and security.

"Thirst, if not for decent liquor,
then the right to it."

Pauline Sabin

and the Women's Organization
for National Prohibition Reform

went to work on behalf
of candidates committed to Repeal.

Like the leaders of the Anti-Saloon
League a generation earlier,

they were now practising
the most focused and effective kind

of single-issue politics.

Democrats triumphed
at the polls that fall,

winning a majority in the House

and coming within a single vote
of controlling the Senate.

Wet forces nearly doubled.

"I do think our little organisation,"
Pauline Sabin said,

"did something to perfect
this wet landslide."

In early 1931, President Hoover
finally released the report

of his commission on Prohibition.

He took comfort
from its summary statement -

the 18th Amendment
should remain in effect

for the foreseeable future.

But the report also catalogued
all the flaws in the Volstead Act

and only a minority of its members

actually favoured the law
as it stood.

I don't know why he needed a panel
to tell him

how badly it was failing,
but he did.

But Hoover looked at the report

and basically found
what he wanted to find,

sort of an argument
to stay the course.

Seemed like, is the president
the only one in the country

who doesn't get it?

Is he the only one who doesn't see
all the problems this is causing?

It added to this sense
that Hoover was someone

who was very out of touch
with the American public. When you're a president
and you're out of touch

that's a big political problem.

By 1931,
Al Capone was at the top of his game.

He had no real rivals any more
among Chicago's mobsters

and he continued to expand his empire
in case Prohibition was repealed.

He took over labour unions
chauffeurs, plumbers, city workers,

motion picture projectionists,
soda pop peddlers,

kosher poultry dealers.

And he toyed with the idea
of going into the dairy business

because more people bought milk
than booze.

Besides, the mark-up was higher.

"Honest to God," he said "we've been
in the wrong racket right along."

President Hoover remained determined

to put America's most famous
bootlegger behind bars

one way or another.

The income tax was a new phenomenon,
lots of people didn't understand it.

And if you're a criminal and all
of your income is illegally gained

it makes sense that
you're not gonna file a return

and admit you're taking
all this illegal income

and tell the government basically

"In case you hadn't noticed I've
been bootlegging for the past year.

"Here's how much I made."

When the Supreme Court announced
that, yes, illegal income is taxable

it was a great moment of confusion
for these, all these criminals.

And many of them went down
and filed tax returns.

Capone did not get around to filing
and neither did his brother Ralph.

For two years the government tried
without success

to build a case, any case,
against Capone.

President Hoover is sitting there
with a group of investigators

that couldn't find an elephant
in a phone booth,

paying these people a lot of money.

Results - zilch, none.

They couldn't get Capone
on gun charges.

They couldn't get him on murder,
on bootlegging.

They thought they'd get him on taxes
but even that was hard

because Capone was smart
in this way.

He kept no books.
He had no bank accounts.

He owned no property
except for a house in Florida

that he bought in his wife's name.

He did everything in cash

and seemed to pay out
almost as much as he was taking in.

It made it almost impossible
for anybody to prove he had income.

The first time
he sat down with the IRS

he admitted he hadn't paid
his taxes all these years, he said

"I didn't make a lot. I don't have
a lot of money to claim.

"I've been just delivering beer,
supplying beer.

"I'm a public servant. I'm doing it
for the good of the people."

On June 5, 1931

the United States finally accumulated
enough evidence

to indict Al Capone

on 22 counts
of income tax evasion.


Capone's trial
was the story of the year.

Reporters from all over the world
were coming in for it.

Actors were coming in. They wanted
to play parts based on Capone.

They wanted to see
how he presented himself.

Jimmy Cagney was there

and Damon Runyon came in
from New York to cover it.

The celebrity journalists
were all coming in for this

and partying with Capone
at night before the trial.

Capone had managed
to beat every rap before.

So I think he thought there was no
reason this would be any different.

Capone's optimism
was understandable.

His men had bribed or threatened

most of the people in the jury pool.

But at the last moment
the judge got wind of it

and brought in a whole new group
of potential jurors.

On October 24, 1931,
after a 10-day trial,

Al Capone was sentenced
to the stiffest penalty

ever given to a tax evader -

11 years in federal prison.

The king of the gangsters
is about to be taken for a ride

by your uncle Sammy.

It's moving day
for Scarface Al Capone.

The camera boys are all ready,
so look sharp, here he comes.

That's Al,
wearing the big white hat.

Seems to be in a hurry
but where he's going

he'll have time and nothing but.

And none of the good citizens of
Chicago is exactly weeping about it.

"It was my own fault" Capone said.

"Publicity that's what got me."

Despite Capone's imprisonment,

despite all the government's efforts,

the flow of liquor into Chicago
never even slowed.

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By the summer of 1932,
it seemed to many Americans

as if the world had turned
upside down

in the four years
since Herbert Hoover's election.

Bad times had only gotten worse.

But President Hoover still insisted

that there was
a "minimum of actual suffering".

Private charities
and local governments, he said,

would take care of the hungry
and the destitute.

It seemed increasingly misguided
to spend millions of federal dollars

to enforce a law that seemed
perpetually unenforceable...

when the Republican administration

was unwilling to spend those dollars
to provide relief.


I call on you
whose standards I see before me

to here and now testify
to your determination

that the candidate of this
convention shall be and must be

that incarnation
of Thomas Jefferson,

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
of New York.


In Chicago Stadium
on the evening of July 2, 1932

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

accepted the presidential nomination
of his party.

This is more
than a political campaign,

it is a call to arms.

Give me your help,
not to win votes alone,

but to win in this crusade

to restore America
to its own people.


Like most politicians of his day,
he had hoped to avoid taking a stand

on the divisive issue
of Prohibition

but wet forces, led by Al Smith,
backed him into a corner.

They had already pushed through
a platform plank demanding Repeal

and Roosevelt
quickly changed his mind.

And now a word - wait till I get
through the paragraph -

now a word as to beer...



You good people,

you good people
are in a terrible hurry.


Now let me complete the statement -
it's all right.

I favour the modification
of the Volstead Act

just as fast
as the law will let us.


Hoover and the Republicans
continued to straddle the issue.

Their platform simultaneously called
for state conventions

to reconsider the 18th Amendment

and promised the federal government

"would continue to safeguard
our citizens everywhere

"from the return of the saloon
and attendant abuses."

"The Hoover plank,"
wrote the journalist HL Mencken,

"at least has the great virtue
of being quite unintelligible."

Pauline Sabin,
the lifelong Republican,

enthusiastically endorsed
Franklin Roosevelt

and put the full force
of her organisation behind him.


It looks, my friends,

like a real landslide this time.


But we have not yet had the returns
from the West Coast

and for that reason I'm making no...

official or public statement as yet.


It was a landslide

Roosevelt carried 42
of the 48 states.


Less than a month later, well before
Roosevelt was inaugurated,

Republican senator
John J Blaine of Wisconsin

offered a joint resolution
calling for submission to the states

of a new 21st Amendment,

which would void the 18th.

Senator Morris Sheppard,

the Texan who had introduced
the 18th Amendment

in the Senate 20 years earlier,

staged a one-man, day-long filibuster
to keep it from coming to a vote.

But after eight and a half hours,

when not a single dry senator thought
it worth the trouble to support him,

he surrendered to the inevitable.

The resolution would pass 63-23.

Seated in the gallery, Ella Boole,

president of the Woman's Christian
Temperance Union, wept.

The House passed it in 40 minutes,
289 to 121,

and sent it on to the states
for ratification.

Within nine days of taking office,

while waiting for the new amendment
to be ratified,

the new president called
upon Congress to do three things -

reorganise the banks,
cut federal spending

and pass a new bill
legalising 3.2 beer.

When the beer bill reached the floor,
and members of the dry minority

began making their familiar case
against alcohol,

the impatient wet majority chanted

"Vote, vote! We want beer!"

The bill easily passed both houses.

Like a magic wand the stroke of the
president's pen has started cafes,

beer gardens and hotels
preparing for the amber flood.

So get ready to wet your whistle
and join the festive chorus.

Let 'er go.

Gangway for good times.


On April 7, 1933,

barely a month
after FDR became president,

Americans could legally buy
a bottle of beer

for the first time since 1920.

At the stroke of midnight,
sirens and steam whistles

blew in the beer-brewing city
of St Louis,

and traffic was halted
on Milwaukee's Wisconsin Avenue

by exultant crowds
singing "Sweet Adeline".

It was marching through Paris day,

Mardi Gras day,

Independence Day,

all the triumphal days put together.

The first time I had a drink,
an actual beer,

was the night of celebration.

In Manhattan, Anheuser-Busch
paid special tribute to the man

whose willingness to champion
the wet cause

had helped destroy
his political career

by presenting former governor
Al Smith with a case of beer.

I got a real thrill
when I saw the six big horses

coming along
with the wagonload of beer.

The only regret I have
is that isn't all for me.

The case just presented
is kind of small

but you can tell Mr Busch

that I'm around all the time
and that I have plenty of friends.

The national celebration
over the beer bill

was so intense and long-lasting

that repeal
of the 18th Amendment itself

would seem almost anticlimactic.

Many believed that that process
would take several years.

It took less than one.


At 5.32 in the evening Eastern Time

on December 5, 1933,

13 years, 10 months and 18 days

after Prohibition went into effect...

it finally came to an end.

HL Mencken marked the occasion

by swallowing a tumbler
of cold water.

It was, he said, the first water
he'd drunk in 13 years.

I just remember it ended

and that everybody
was terribly relieved

to be able to go
into the shut-up restaurants

without having to give a number.

There was a great feeling
that it was better

to trust people
not to drink so much on their own

than have a law
saying they couldn't have liquor.

I think all my friends and my family
and everybody

were relieved
that they didn't, quote,

"need to break the law any more."

At last you could really choose
what you wanted.

After Prohibition, after everyone
had seen how devastating it was

to... to morals, to policing,

to government, really a failure,

people are picking up the pieces
and trying to make sense of it.

The key thing, though,

about this picking up the pieces
after Prohibition

was the same God
that laughs at our folly -

and there was folly in Prohibition -

still holds us responsible,

still wants us to build a better
society, to build a better world,

and doesn't disdain human endeavour.

And I think that post-Prohibition
you were picking up the pieces

and trying to find a new moral
framework for improving America

without quite so much pride
and arrogance and self-assurance

as the Prohibitionists had.

Prohibition's effects
outlasted the 18th Amendment.

Several states and many counties,
townships and towns

chose to let stand local laws

that would keep them dry for decades.

Oklahomans would do so
for more than a quarter of a century,

in part because clergymen
and bootleggers alike opposed repeal.

His home state, Will Rogers said,

will be dry so long as its citizens
can stagger to the polls.

They would do so five times

before finally voting for Repeal
in 1959.

The inter-state crime syndicates

spawned by warfare
over bootlegging profits

would expand steadily
in the years that followed Repeal,

finding new worlds to conquer
in every corner of the country.

Congress had barred breweries from
owning or leasing saloons any more

and the old-time all-male
drinking establishments

that had been the hated target of
the Prohibitionists never returned.

Women drank freely in the bars
and taverns that replaced them.

The most surprising legacy
of Prohibition

is that it's much harder
to get a drink today

than it was when it was
against the law to get a drink.

Once you allow something,
there's an entire code of law -

closing hours, age limits,
percentage of alcohol in a drink,

no Sunday sales in many states.

During Prohibition,
because you couldn't drink at all,

you could drink any time
and anyone could drink.

It was when it comes back that there
is a restriction on our drinking.

Prohibition did cut
alcohol consumption for a time.

But alcoholism,
the disease that had inspired it,

has never gone away.

It destroyed lives in 1820 and 1920

and it destroys them still.

No government, anywhere,
has found a way to prevent it.

Often one hears about the response

to the repeal of the 18th Amendment

that there's jubilation in the land.

There was not jubilation in my home.

My mother and father
were both alcoholics.

My father was an alcoholic
to the day of his death.

I wouldn't say that Prohibition
caused the alcoholism

but it surely didn't stop it.

I viewed the return of liquor
as not a blessing

but a continuation
of a sad sorry time

for a boy growing up
in this country.

In 1935, two alcoholics

a New York stockbroker
and an Ohio surgeon

discovered that simply through prayer
and by talking to one another,

confessing their lapses

and offering counsel
based on their own experience,

they could sometimes strengthen
one another's resolve not to drink.

Alcoholics Anonymous,
the organisation they started,

would eventually have
millions of members.

Its founders had never heard
of the Washingtonians,

the temperance organisation built
upon precisely the same principles

that had flourished in America
nearly a century before.

Well, I'm a recovering alcoholic,
30 years almost.

I'm not a Prohibitionist.
It doesn't work.

When you look
at the United States

with 300-plus million people,

about 10 percent of the population,
the adult population,

has a serious problem with alcohol.

You don't pass the law
based on 10 percent

because a lot of people,
in fact most people who drink,

handle it very well.

So treat the people
who have a problem with alcohol.

Don't try and treat
the whole country.

Over the years there have been
many calls upon Congress

by one group of Americans or another

for constitutional amendments
that would impose

their version of morality
on the rest of their fellow citizens.

All have been defeated,

at least in part
because the memory of Prohibition

and the unintended consequences
that accompanied it

remain fresh more than three quarters
of a century after it ended.

I haven't had a drink in 35 years

and I don't even care
if I ever have another drink.

I don't long for it or ache for it.

But if somebody said
"You can't have another drink"

I'd probably go to some demo
in front of the federal courthouse

and have one.

It's one of those things that...

where the average American says

"Who the hell are you
to tell me how to live?"

And if we cease being that country,

if we become a country
in which we all say

"Please tell me how to live",

we're doomed.

Captions (c) SBS Australia 2012

STEINMAN: It's crazy.

While it's happening, you don't
think you'll ever forget it.

Then once it's over,
you can barely recall a thing.

But it's them, right? You're sure
these are the guys who held you up?

These three definitely.

This is the little prick
who spit in my face.

The D'Alessio brothers.
A family of dagos out of Philly.

Second-storey men
who graduated to stick-ups.

They robbed Bookbinders on 17th.
The restaurant.

Killed two customers,
shot a waiter in the face.

Jesus Christ.
Little bastard called me fat.

They're fucking killers, George.
Sounds to me like you got off easy.

Why, sure. I was just...

I need to talk to my brother.

Feel better, eh?

These fucking guineas.
They're desperados, Nuck.

We got to track 'em down and squash
'em before they spill more blood.

It's not just blood
I'm worried about.

It's ink. You see the paper today?

June doesn't like to upset me.

Fletcher, this reformer
running for mayor -

he gave an interview
alleging corruption

in both the mayor's
and the sheriff's office.

He mentioned me by name?

"Has Mayor Bacharach
even questioned

"what Sheriff Eli Thompson was doing
at an illegal casino at 3am?"

So I was there. So what?

How's he know
I wasn't answering a call?

Because he knows, Eli.
Everybody does.